Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Warburton to lead 15 Welshmen in to Lions tour

Sam Warburton has been named the youngest ever Welsh captain of the British Lions by coach Warren Gatland ahead of this summer’s 10-match (three test) tour of Hong Kong and Australia.

The 24-year-old Cardiff Blues star was replaced by Ryan Jones as the Welsh captain mid-way through their successful 2013 Six Nations campaign, but Gatland says he has been the “most successful captain” in recent years in the Northern Hemisphere and he has “huge respect” for him.

He will be the first Welsh tour captain since Phil Bennett in 1977, although Gareth Thomas did skipper the side once Brian O’Driscoll had left the 2005 tour injured, and will lead a squad consisting of 15 Welshmen, 10 Englishmen, nine Irishmen and three Scots.

The biggest talking points have been the omission of England’s Six Nations skipper Chris Robson and legendary fly-half Jonny Wilkinson, but it has been reported that when spoken to about being considered the 33-year-old said he had Toulon commitments and wasn’t sure his body would survive the tour.

There have also been questions asked of the decision to include only two fly-halves for such a gruelling campaign, with many utility backs who could have provided cover for that position left out.

Gatland said of his squad: “We've looked at the last few weeks in terms of performances. We've had a number of players who have come back from injury.

“The benchmark for a lot of the squad was the Six Nations, and then looking at some club form and assessing whether there was the same physical intensity to draw comparison, and then finally make the selection of those players.

“If you look at previous tours, there are six to eight players who always get injured. There will be a key group of players who will potentially be called up.”

The Lions have not toured Australia since a 2-1 series defeat in 2001, but fare generally well against the Wallabies, winning 15 out of 20 Tests with them.

Lions squad in full:
Backs: Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Rob Kearney (Ireland), Tommy Bowe (Ireland), Alex Cuthbert (Wales), Sean Maitland (Scotland), George North (Wales), Jonathan Davies (Wales), Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland), Jamie Roberts (Wales), Manu Tuilagi (England), Owen Farrell (England), Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), Conor Murray (Ireland), Mike Phillips (Wales), Ben Youngs (England).

Forwards: Dan Cole (England), Cian Healy (Ireland), Gethin Jenkins (Wales), Adam Jones (Wales), Matt Stevens (England), Mako Vunipola (England), Dylan Hartley (England), Richard Hibbard (Wales), Tom Youngs (England), Ian Evans (Wales), Richie Gray (Scotland), Alun-Wyn Jones (Wales), Paul O’Connell (Ireland), Geoff Parling (England), Tom Croft (England), Toby Faletau (Wales), Jamie Heaslip (Ireland), Dan Lydiate (Wales), Sean O’Brien (Ireland), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Sam Warburton (Wales, captain).


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